A few weeks ago, I published a blog I’d written about my fight against anxiety and depression. I’d actually written the post a couple of months before it went online, around the time of Robin William’s tragic death. It hung around in the back end of WordPress for a while until I found the nerve to put it out there for the world, or at least the West Island, to see.
I don’t hide behind any pretence in my blogs.
I write honestly about things that inspire and affect me, things that make me happy and, sometimes, very sad. I’ve written about the impact of losing my father to cancer and my struggles with body image. I haven’t been shy to express how I feel in a public forum.
But somehow coming clean about my fight with anxiety and depression felt different. Scary. I knew I’d feel exposed. I was afraid that people would look at me differently. I was concerned that my professional reputation would be compromised. And of course, I was worried about the impact on my family. My husband, Lee, is a great support, but he’s incredibly private. I didn’t know how happy he’d be about me exposing a very personal, family issue.
So I did what any loving, considerate wife would do. I wrote it and published it, and then sent him the link.
I was a nervous wreck the morning my blog went live. I went to an early yoga class, shut off my phone and did my best to breathe. I was shocked when an hour later, I logged into the site to find that 1000 people had already read my post. I had dozens of private Facebook messages and emails from friends and acquaintances thanking me for finding the courage to write about something so personal that affects so many people.
I was so focused on how my blog could play a little part in helping others, I failed to anticipate how much it would do for me too.
I am endlessly grateful for the supportive and encouraging comments, emails, phone calls and hugs from people who told me my message inspired them to get some much needed help. I am thankful to the reader who sent me the link to this amazing blog, written by Jonathan Levitt, which made me feel validated and a little less exposed. I am indebted to my Auntie Rhoda who made a stack of photocopies of my blog and passed it out to anyone she could get her hands on. I am incredibly appreciative of the friends and family who deemed my story worth sharing and I will forever count my lucky stars for having a best friend, my sister from another mister, who wears her therapist hat, holds my hand, and/or kicks my ass as needed. Finally, I am grateful to Lee, who told me my blog was great and didn’t freak out in the slightest.
There is still, sadly, a huge stigma attached to mental illness – a stereotypical perception that those who suffer are unbalanced, unhinged and incapable. Too many suffer silently, afraid of the personal and professional impact of coming clean and finding support. Through my story, I hoped to remove a tiny bit of that stigma, to show that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness, but a show of strength. Everyone deserves to lead a happy, productive and fulfilling life. Some of us just need a little help getting there. There is no shame in that.
And one last word. After my blog went live, a comment I got over and over again went something along the lines of, “It’s so hard to believe! You look like you have it all together.”
First of all, I’m not sure if there’s anyone who really has it entirely together, regardless of their mental health.
Also, appearances can be deceiving.
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. A little kindness can go a long way.